Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Maybe If They Treated Seriously

I've written before about why many in the frum community don't observe Yom HaShoah in any serious fashion.  To be absolutely clear it's not because of any intent for disrespect for those who died or suffered but survived in that horrible, horrible time.  In fact, it's because many look at Yom HaShoah commemorations and are disappointed by what they see as an insufficient attempt to mark the tragedy that the day is disregarded.
I do not for an instant intend to justify the behaviour of certain menuvalim whose actions a couple of days ago brought much of the Chareidi community into disrespute.  The critical response from the Chareidi community itself, a group known very well for circling the wagons in even extreme situations, shows the depravity of this flock of scum and reminds us not to judge the majority based on the actions of an idiotic tiny minority.
But for many the current format of Yom HaShoah, especially in the golus is insufficient.  Perhaps its because the day wasn't picked by "the Gedolim" but rather by the secular Knesset.  This is a reason but not a great one.  How many MK's were there that were unaffected by the conflagration?  Was their desire to set aside a day of memorial any less important simply because they weren't observant?
Perhaps it's because the full name of the day, Yom HaShoah vehaGevurah, rankles those who remember secular Zionism's strong efforts to create a "new Jew", strong and independent, not like those shtetl losers who marched like sheep into the crematoria.  The Zionists couldn't identify with the rank and file Jew who, surrounded by mighty enemies and without any means of defense, surrendered to his fate.  They could only see common cause with the handful that had the opportunity to pick up arms and resist, even if its was futile. It carries the quiet implication that the real reason for the day wasn't so much the Holocaust as it was the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  One can understand why that would be bothersome.
However, what's most disconcerting about the day is how empty of Jewish meaning it is.  In Israel there is a moment of silence and a series of ceremonies.  In golus there is a ceremony at the local temple or JCC that lasts about 90 minutes and consists of speeches and a children's choir singing Ani Ma'amin or something similar.  Five minutes after the proceedings have ended Yom HaShoah is effectively over for the participants.  Ninety minutes?  That's all they give the victims of the Holocaust?
Some folks (I used to be one) would like Yom HaShoah to disappear.  They make the argument that there is already a day set aside for commemorating the tragedies of Jewish history: Tisha b'Av.  While they are correct the rituals of Tisha b'Av focus on the destruction of the Temples (may it be speedily rebuilt).  The other massacres and destruction of Jewish history tend to be seen as secondary.  There are kinnos for the Holocaust on Tisha b'Av as well but only recent machzorim have them so they are not universally said.
Others claim that it is forbidden to create new days of mourning, that we simply don't have the authority to do so which means we're left with Tisha b'Av.  Unfortunately this isn't actually true.  The greatest example is the forgotten fast day of Sivan 13 which was instituted for the more than half a million victims of Bogdan Chielmnicki's Cossacks, y"sh.  Once upon a time it was observed by more than a few people and even had kinnos written for it.  The Chielmnick massacres, by the way, were the worst tragedy that befell European Jewry until the Holocaust.  So there is precedent.  If the gezeras tach v'tat were worthy of a special day surely the Holocaust is.
Now we have to be careful at this point.  One focus of Jewish commemorations of tragedies is on moral lessons that can be drawn from the original events.  Tisha b'Av is the best example of this.  We recall the destruction of the Temples but also on the reasons the Chazal bring as to why it happened.  Since the closing of the Talmud, however, we have become much poorer when it comes to explaining tragedies.  Instead of be able to come up with reasons like the Chazal did we are much more mute.  As the strong response to anyone who tries to say "And this is why the Holocaust happened..." indicates, we are simply not psychologically able to accept any reason.  The pain is still too great.
This does not mean we cannot recall the Holocaust in Jewish fashion.  Many religious Jews criticize the moment of silence in Israel as a non-Jewish method of reflection.  Well then why not introduce Jewish methods instead?
If we are truly committed to sanctifying the memory of the Six Million then we need to do it right.  Yom HaShoah needs to become a fast day.  Perhaps the best theme of the day would be silence, al pi Aharon HaKohen's response to God's instructions not to mourn the dead of his two sons in last week's parasha.  While we cannot dare to bring reasons for the Shoah we can acknowledge that the reason it could happen was because we had not yet been redeemed from our exile and we are only still in exile because of our intense hatred one for another.  Words.  We take the power of speech that God breathed into Adam HaRishon at the end of Creation and use it to keep ourselves in the spiritual gutter.
Instead of more kinnos perhaps we should create a day of silence where we are forced to avoid words and instead gather quietly to reflect on our loss.  No special prayers other than those associated with a public fast.  No long speeches about love and achdus that no one really takes seriously anyway.  Just a day where the theme is thinking about how far we have fallen, how much we have lost and from where we have to start to wonder how we ever climb back up.

4 comments:

aminspiration said...

a global taanit dibbur is an interesting idea.

I know people who do it on other occasions, but it is an interesting concept.

Unfortunately, one reason i dont think it would work is that most people work on Yom Hashoah and you cant work in many fields without talking all day.

But a novel and fitting response i think.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

You mean the 20th of Sivan, not the 13th.

moshe moshel said...

Most shuls that I've been to say kinnos for the Houlocaust on Tisha B'av, as well as a Keil Malei after Yiskor that is inclusive of all who died al kiddush Hashem.

Adam Zur said...

The idea of learning Torah Lishma as a prime ideal I found compelling. and the idea of building a society on this ideal I also found effective. I however saw something faulty in this. I am not exactly sure what it was at first but eventually the holes in this system became blatant. So there is a serious disconnection between my own wonderful experience at yeshiva and the flaws that have become apparent in recent years. I think the mildest of complaints i have is that the basic rabbis that follow this system are jerks. There is nothing to distinguish their moral level from the average Joe scum at the local bar. In fact the average drunk Joe in most cases will show a superior understanding of basic human decency than the greatest of all roshie yeshivas. However the level of moral decency of he average yeshiva man is highly superior to that of Hasidim. Most Chasidim show no more morality than the average e primate except given their human intelligence they can often use great cunning disguise their plans as Chabad does.